In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway asks why Amazon is removing writers' books without warning.
A very happy New Year to everyone. I very much look forward to seeing many of you on tonight's #indieauthorchat at the usual 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK time when we will be looking ahead to what 2022 might bring. In the meanwhile, do listen to the last podcast from last year as Howard and I reflect on last year's Futurebook Conference.
Legal Victory over Piracy Site Kiss Library: But Will It Make a Difference
Piracy has been a problem for writers ever since “Homer” started riffing on the works of his poetic predecessors. Print certainly had its problems as a medium susceptible to piracy. And photocopiers were long a pirate’s best friend. But in the digital age, the problem has taken on a different texture altogether. The fact so many people have access to the internet has upped the scale on which it can take place by orders of magnitude.
And a case this week has really brought home one of the most intractable problems with trying to tackle piracy in a world that has the internet. Kiss Library was a fairly cookie cutter pirate site offering free pdf downloads that had been obtained and then offered without consent. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides a mechanism for issuing takedown notices of such material and, ultimately, prosecution of the pirates behind such sites. And this week, courts found the people behind Kiss Library guilty of piracy in a lawsuit brought by publishers and the Authors Guild of America, and fined them $7.8m.
That’s where the problem comes. Because the accused, who are thought to be based in Ukraine, were tried and sentenced in absentia. Which means there is little the US courts that issued the sentence can do to enforce it. So it’s unlikely the authors affected will see a cent of that $7.8m. There’s very little anyone can do to stop the guilty parties setting up another site that runs on similar lines. And when that site is taken down, doing the same again. And so on. This is how the internet makes copyright infringement so difficult to do anything about.
Amazon Removes KDP Authors' Books Without Warning: Are Pirate Sites to Blame?
It’s been a bad time for KDP’s relationship with the indie authors who are its lifeblood. And there is some suggestion that this story too may have a piracy connection. Specifically, Amazon’s overzealous suspension of books and even whole accounts has been in the news. The root cause seems to be a suspicion of piracy. But Amazon carries out the deletions before investigating or giving authors a right to reply.
The issue broke the surface on social media when bestselling author Ruby Dixon posted that the books in her Ice Planet Barbarians series had disappeared. Thanks to Tiffany Roberts whose tweet greatly raised the profile of this issue, and brought it to my attention. Amazon have not commented (as per usual). But what seems to have happened is that Dixon’s works were identified as being available elsewhere on the internet and therefore flagged as possibly pirated. The irony of course, is that they would have been flagged because they were in fact pirated. And that is why they appeared elsewhere, on a site like Kiss Library.
An interesting speculation in response to Tiffany’s thread is that Dixon may have fallen foul of a new very rigorous Amazon bot, designed as part of its Kindle Vella programme and now being applied to KDP. Kindle Vella, the serial fiction app, vets all submissions by writers by scouring as many corners of the web as it can reach to make sure material is original before it’s posted.
Amazon's Communications With Authors Still Less Than Transparent
A couple of things stand out in this case. First is that yet again Amazon’s creator services teams have fallen woefully short in a way that’s reminiscent of Audiblegate. The lack of transparency, consultation, or right to reply is worrying. And second, yet again it seems overzealous platforms are targeting romance authors, who so often lead the way for the rest of the indie community.
Dixon’s books have now reappeared thankfully. But the concerns over how Amazon deals with its creators very much remain.
A New Twist in the Libraries vs Publishers ebook Battle
It seems that the battle between libraries and publishers tends to heat up around New Year. It was two years ago that the issue came to a head first. This week, Maryland's bid to give libraries a legal right to ebook licenses on fair terms wobbled. New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have made similar provision. She reasoned that states do not in fact have the right to pass such legislation. She claimed the bill would breach the US Copyright Act. Meanwhile Maryland's bill faces adjudication next month.Amazon is removing authors' books from KDP without warning and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months. I highly recommend this great list of online writers' conferences from Nate Hoffelder, some of which are indie-inclusive.